Analysts, however, remain skeptical about the use of cloud computing by the largest financial-services firms. Smaller firms have a smaller franchise to protect and tend to fly beneath the hacker community's radar. Big public clouds, like Amazon Web Services, do work with financial institutions, but, like Citigroup, most big banks are taking on the task themselves.
"I do think that it will be quite some time before we see large financial institutions wholeheartedly embracing the cloud. There are a number of obstacles," says Julie Conroy McNelley, research director at Boston-based Celent Communications. "Security is certainly a paramount concern. While in some ways a uniform, cloud-based infrastructure is safer than the current siloed infrastructure with multiple and disparate technologies, it does create a high value target which the bad guys will have extra incentive to focus their efforts on penetrating."
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Benjamin is confident that Citigroup is many steps ahead of any threats that may come from cyberspace. In fact, the physical representation of Citigroup's cloud can be found in the 10 regional data processing centers; each one is the size of several football fields.
"I'm gratified we're not in the public cloud. The Internet can be a dangerous place," says Benjamin. "There's no need for us to move critical infrastructure where we would commingle data. I like disruptive technology, but not if it means disrupting security."